At The Week today I argued “Why the GOP Should Tank the Midterms.” In short, Republicans not ready for prime time. They were too divided to govern one house of the Congress without constantly humiliating themselves, so how do you think running two will do?
Much of their division came from the House rank-and-file chafing against any attempt from the leadership to be for anything that had a remote chance of becoming law. As a result, the Republican Party has no unified agenda with which to begin the process of governing.
This is a worse problem that the Republicans of 1994 suffered. Then, Newt Gingrich unified the House candidates around the “Contract With America” platform, but the Senate Republicans weren’t on board. Even though Republicans won control of Congress, most of the Contract legislation died in the Senate and Republicans were unable to parlay their midterm victory into a presidential victory two years later.
This time around, there isn’t a Contract to unify one house around, let alone two. Speaker John Boehner literally told Politico last week that “nobody’s given … that much thought” to what Republicans would do if they won the Senate and fully controlled Congress. Hey, it’s not like they’d have to help run the country in five months if they win, right?
There is short-term political logic to avoid taking firm positions. Not only are Republicans incapable of making meager compromises among themselves, but the lack of an agenda helps with the effort to blame the Democrats for everything.
But a political party needs to be able to think a few steps ahead.
It’d be one thing if Republicans could be counted on to pull together once being bestowed with greater responsibility to govern the country. But we have no evidence of that. The more likely outcome is an even more protracted battle over the budget as overconfident Tea Party Republicans — who, lacking an agenda, will have nothing resembling a mandate — come up with more ridiculous demands and salivate over the prospect of another government shutdown.
Republicans may be crowing about the Obama’s low approval ratings, but their own numbers are worse, because they haven’t made a case to the public they have any sort of governing capability. They may win the Senate, because the seats up for re-election happen to be in redder states. But Republicans won’t be in any position capitalize on their good fortune.